Star of movies with local ties memorialized in book

Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

January 23, 2014

Rachel Baldwin


The television and movie characters portrayed by the late-actor Jim Varney are near and dear to the hearts of many residents of the Tug Valley area, to which the actor has family ties. In honor of his uncle, Varney’s nephew, Justin Lloyd, has authored his life story.

The first comprehensive biography of the late actor Jim Varney has just been released, chronicling the journey of the comedian who made the lovable buffoon Ernest an iconic figure in American pop culture in the 1980s and 1990s.

“The Importance of Being Ernest: The Life of Actor Jim Varney (Stuff that Vern doesn’t even know),” was five years in the making. With unprecedented access to Jim’s friends, family and former colleagues, the work is an insider’s look at the life of a complex man embraced by millions around the world.

“I knew there was more about Jim’s life than was out there in popular culture, and I felt that with the impact his career had on the world, a comprehensive biography was long overdue,” Lloyd said.

“The Importance of Being Ernest: The Life of Actor Jim Varney (Stuff that Vern doesn’t even know)” traces Varney’s journey from a child in Lexington, Ky., with dreams of being a stage and film actor, to becoming an iconic entertainment figure in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Little Tramp.” It also contains a multitude of never-before-seen photos from the Varney family’s private collection.

The work also delves into what drove the actor and how he overcame many personal and professional obstacles to attain success. But with that success came a price.

Jim longed for stage and film roles beyond Ernest, and they were difficult to come by because of his symbiosis with the character. Yet Jim persevered, ultimately winning major movie roles such as Jed Clampett in “The Beverly Hillbillies” and (the voice of) Slinky Dog in the first two “Toy Story” films.

Finally, the book explores the genius of the small Nashville advertising agency that created Ernest and how it spread his popularity decades before the character “went viral” and became associated with achieving global stardom.

Jim’s family is from the Mingo County area. His grandfather, Andrew Jackson Varney, was born here and was also a first cousin of Levisa Chafin, wife of Devil Anse Hatfield. He also has family ties to the Belfry community of Pike County, Ky.

For more information about the book, check out the website at: http://www.importanceofbeingernest.com.